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Are Reebok Pumps Poised for a Major Comeback?

Date: December 24 2018

By: T.S. FOX

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Reebok’s Pump technology took the world by storm when it debuted nearly three decades ago. Envisioned by Reebok’s own Paul ‘Litch’ Litchfield, inspired by the air splints used to rehab injuries, and executed with the help of industrial design firm Design Continuum, Pump built on the customisable cushioning principles of the era while translating the idea into an entirely new form: an upper that could be tailored to the exact specifications of the wearer.

When it was officially released in 1989, Pump immediately became the pinnacle of footwear tech thanks to its tongue-based pump apparatus and connected, upper-embedded bladder. A little marketing push didn’t hurt either as The Human Highlight Film himself, Dominique Wilkins, rocked the eponymous Pump basketball shoe on the hardwood and in the first-ever commercial touting the technology. Basketball-related Pumps would become even more popular in 1990 with the introductions of the Twilight Zone, Omni Zone, and SXT Pump before Dee Brown inflated his kicks in front of a worldwide audience to take home 1991’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest crown.

When it was officially released in 1989, Pump immediately became the pinnacle of footwear tech thanks to its tongue-based pump apparatus and connected, upper-embedded bladder. A little marketing push didn’t hurt either as The Human Highlight Film himself, Dominique Wilkins, rocked the eponymous Pump basketball shoe on the hardwood and in the first-ever commercial touting the technology. Basketball-related Pumps would become even more popular in 1990 with the introductions of the Twilight Zone, Omni Zone, and SXT Pump before Dee Brown inflated his kicks in front of a worldwide audience to take home 1991’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest crown.

Like all innovative technologies, Pump quickly transitioned to a number of brand-new arenas. Tennis star Michael Chang popularized the Pump on the court with what would prove to be the most iconic tennis shoe of all-time, the Court Victory Pump, while Greg Norman even hit the links in his own Pump-equipped golf spikes. The tech still remained especially well-suited to the hardwood, though, as Shaquille O’Neal’s signature Shaq Attaq proved that the air-filled bladders could even help a guy who rocked a size US 22.

Instapump – Pump Comes to Runners

Fast-forward a couple of years and Instapump does for runners what Pump originally did for basketball kicks five years earlier. Following an introduction to the running world with the likes of 1991’s Pump Running Dual, running-centric Pump tech was taken to a whole new level with Pump’s Instapump evolution.

Born out of an idea put forth by Reebok’s own CEO, Paul Fireman, Instapump turned Pump into an instantly inflatable design with the addition of a CO2 cartridge-equipped Pump Gun. The Guns and Instapump tech debuted with a trio of silhouettes by way of the ill-fated ‘Dan & Dave’ campaign before making its way to one of the most revolutionary footwear designs to ever hit the market.

1994’s Instapump Fury showcased Reebok’s flagship technology in the best way possible: by stripping away unnecessary design elements and making the air-filled bladder the actual upper. Helmed by the legendary Steven Smith while using the latest, cutting-edge version of Litch’s Pump tech and the Reebok Advanced Concepts (RAC) group’s Hexalite cushioning and weight-shedding Graphlite, the Instapump Fury was a distinctly avant-garde illustration of what a runner could and should be: a progressive, aggressive offering that pushes the boundaries in terms of both aesthetics and performance.

'The time is right for Pump to be even bigger than ever and for Reebok to bring one of the best-ever footwear innovations into the limelight.'

It’s Time for a Comeback

Reebok’s Pump technology hasn’t really been pushed since the debut of the Instapump Fury in the mid-90s. Sure, the tech has made comebacks with the likes of 2005’s All-Star Game ATRs, that same year’s Pump 2.0, and 2006’s Answer IX for Allen Iverson, but the tech remains largely the same as the one that first hit the market way back in 1989.

That’s not a bad thing, though. Pump was ahead of its time 30 years ago and recent developments show that the technology is as relevant as ever. Back in 2014, Instapump Fury retros flew off shelves as Reebok resurrected the unmistakable ‘Citron’ OG to go along with a bevy of high-profile colabs in honour of the shoe’s 20-year anniversary. Previous Pump Omni Zone and Court Victory Pump returns have sold like gangbusters, too, while Vetements-branded Pump colabs show the fashion world’s ever-present Pump love.

The time is right for Pump to be even bigger than ever and for Reebok to bring one of the best-ever footwear innovations into the limelight once again. 2019 marks what should be an epic year for the tech: it’s not only the 20th anniversary of the technology, but the 25th anniversary of the beloved Instapump Fury, too.

It may be three decades old, but the Pump is poised for a breakout once again.

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